Getting It

Almost all of my childhood and almost every Tuesday, we had a black maid named Pauline clean our home.  Mom would trade days with Pauline’s Friday employer whenever mom prepared for a big cocktail party.  I remember Pauline’s laughter, her chess pie, her discipline, her love, but I don’t remember her crying…. except once.  The second Tuesday of April 1968, I was home from fifth grade watching a long funeral procession on our color TV.    It reminded me of watching a long funeral procession in first grade on our black and white.  Pauline sat with us, shedding so many quiet tears her apron was soaked.  I remember hugging her, but I really didn’t get it.

Twenty years later, the thickest book on my shelf was “A Testament of Hope – The Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr.”  Unlike too many books around it, I actually read this one — moved by poetic prophetic preaching.  During their annual meeting, the fourth week of April 1988, I was given the Mexico Missouri “NAACP Drum Major for Justice Award”.  Why me?  I didn’t deserve it and I wasn’t even a “C” (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People).  When I pointed that out to the leader she said, “Honey, we’re ALL colored by God — there’s just a variety in the complexion.”  I still didn’t get it.

Four years later, the last week of April, my best friend leading youth events was my roomie at a training event at Montreat.  The fact that Keith was African American only mattered when we awoke to the news of riots after the Rodney King verdict and I experienced his reaction.  That night the Montreat community gathered to pray and watch a 16 mm projector film of a speech Martin Luther King, Jr. had given at Montreat.  Maybe I was beginning to get it.

The following December Keith and I were at a national training event in Kansas City for the new “God’s Gift of Human Sexuality” parent and youth curriculum.  After eating with a group at The Plaza, and on the way back to our hotel, I drove Keith to the Alameda Plaza, a ritzy hotel on a hill with an outstanding view of the Plaza Christmas Lights.  As we walked in I said, “We’ll just ride the elevators up to a top floor and look out at all the lights below and come back down.”  Keith said, “I don’t think we should, Wally.”  I said, “O come on, Keith.  It’s great.  Just look like you’re going to your room and catch the view.  I DO IT ALL THE TIME!”  With fear and frustration on his face and in his voice, Keith said, “Obviously you don’t do it in my skin!”  I think I got it.

What is your experience of my story?  Whatever “getting it” means to you, what has helped you or blocked you from “getting it.”

Sit Before You Hit

I learned lessons from Fred Craddock’s book about “Overhearing the Gospel”. Parenting with “Love and Logic” taught me about allowing children to learn by “overhearing a parent’s” conversation.

On my first day of 1997 ski school I overheard the lesson given to the 4 year-olds a few yards away. I thought I should learn from children who could already ski better than I (and who did not have as far to fall in skiing or pride).

I could overhear the preschool-ski teacher ask the crowd of children, “What do we do?” In unison the boys and girls would yell back: “Sit before you hit!! Sit before you hit!!”

If you’re skiing toward a person, tree, or cliff that could be an important lesson to learn. I’ve joined the children’s choir in many ways since that day. For example, I have never regretted NOT sending something I wrote in anger or frustration. I have regretted each time I did. My father’s advice ala “sit before you hit” was “Write your praises and speak your criticisms”.

I don’t remember my adult ski lesson that day so I guess I experienced what I’ve often overheard: “Today, I got more out of the children’s time than the sermon!”

In what ways has the mantra “sit before you hit” helped you in your life? In what ways might you try using this now?

I Don’t Know MLK

My TikTok & Twitch son asked me: “Why would anyone read a blog by an old white guy?” He never let the truth get in the way of my feelings and I never could find a good answer.

Maybe someone wants to hear from a 9-year younger white guy.

While the video is quality is not good, the spirit in the room was incredible when I was invited to speak at our community Martin Luther King Service at Second Baptist Church in 2012.

If you can’t go to a service on Monday, I invite you to listen.